Spring is officially underway and many around the Ohio Valley are looking to freshen up their landscaping and curb appeal with new plants and flowers. Now open for the season, the Greenhouse Retail Operation at Watch (GROW), a part of Russell Nesbitt Services, gives area residents the opportunity to shop local and support a good cause.

Russell Nesbitt Services is a non-profit organization that works to provide life and career opportunities for individuals with disabilities. Their programs offer on-the-job vocational training that clients can use to one day enter the workforce.

The GROW program began in May of 2017. All of the funding to construct and stock the greenhouse was received through grants and fundraising efforts. Russell Nesbitt clients are involved in all aspects of the program and process.

Russell Nesbitt GROW

“Our clients learn how to plant from seed, cuttings, transplanting to retail pots and labeling items that are for sale,” said greenhouse supervisor Andrea Kleeh. “They learn social skills through customer service, teamwork through completing projects together with their peers, as well as independent learning and mastering and completing a new task.”

GROW has seasonal inventory all year round. In the spring and summer months, the greenhouse is stocked with many varieties of annuals and perennials, including hanging baskets, patio pots, specialty planted in home decor and on-trend home décor items. During fall, GROW offers locally grown mums ranging in size from nine-inch pots to bushels.

In the winter and Christmas seasons, GROW carries indoor and outdoor fresh pine arrangements, in addition to poinsettias, grave blankets, fresh pine wreaths and special arrangements.

“We pride ourselves on being able to help decorate the Ohio Valleys porches for the holiday season and continuing winter months,” said Kleeh.

  • Russell Nesbitt GROW

Most years, GROW is open during the Easter season, offering bulb flowers such as tulips, hyacinth and Muscari hyacinth. However, the pandemic prohibited the staff and clients from being able to grow the bulbs this year. They intend to resume that project in 2022.

All of the growing projects are designed be engaging for the clients to allow them ownership of the program. And while vocational training is the primary focus, clients are also allowed to have a little fun.

“I like to plant flowers and play in the dirt,” said Susan, a program participant.

The GROW greenhouse is open 10 am to 4 pm Monday through Friday, and 9 am to 1 pm on Saturdays. Information on stock is regularly updated on the Russell Nesbitt Services Facebook page. To comply with COVID-19 guidelines, all customers entering the greenhouse are required to wear a mask, and the number of customers may be limited for social distancing. Curbside pick-up and pay-by-phone options are available.

• Wheeling native Jennifer Materkoski is a graduate of West Liberty University and Kent State University, where she earned a master’s degree in journalism and mass communications. Before beginning her current role as director of communications and employee engagement for a global business process outsourcing firm, Jennifer worked in local media and non-profit communications. She is a current board member of Generation Wheeling, also chairing the organization’s Work Committee. She lives in Wheeling with her husband, Rich, and her three children: Mason, Mercer and Miller.

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